There is a Spam museum in Austin, Minnesota, USA. Not many people know that. It’s not dedicated to the electronic variety, but to the tinned gelatinous mass of pork and fat called Spam launched in 1937. A great depression food if ever there were one!
Writing on the BBC News web site, Kevin Connolly compares Spammification to Disneyfication, both being “an extraordinary form of soft power which will endure even if the looming powerhouses of China, India and Brazil come to overshadow America’s global economic dominance.”
Connolly comments, “I came to know it in the early 1960s, in the days before the invention of obesity. In common with millions of other British families we used to slice it, coat it in batter and then deep-fry it, thus producing that miracle of British culinary ingenuity known as the spam fritter.”
Brits of that era will recall the famous Monty Python sketch lampooning a working-class predilection for Spam. First televised in 1970, the sketch is based on two customers in a cheap café attempting to order breakfast from a menu that has spam-with-everything. The sketch was written by veteran Pythons Terry Jones and Michael Palin (now known for his round-the-world travelogues).
Only three and a half minutes long, the sketch builds up to an argument between Mrs Bun, who is the only person in the room who does not want Spam, and the waitress (whose menu includes “Lobster Thermidor aux crevettes with a Mornay sauce, garnished with truffle pâté, brandy, a fried egg on top and Spam”).
Mrs Bun asks for the Spam to be removed, much to the amazement of her Spam-loving husband. The waitress responds to this request with scorn. Eventually, Mrs Bun, echoing countless adolescents brought up on the stuff, resorts to screaming, “I don’t like Spam!”
It seems that the phenomenon, some years later, of marketers flooding e-mail with junk mail advertising was named spamming because of the repeated refrain of “spam with everything” in the Monty Python sketch.
Spam makers Hormel, while never happy with the use of the word spam for junk e-mail, have shown no reluctance to capitalize on the Spam sketch’s notoriety. Hormel issued a special tin of Spam for the Broadway première of Eric Idle’s hit musical Spamalot and the sketch figures in the Spam museum.